The Cause and Conduct of the War (13 february 1902)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Cause and Conduct of the War is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 13 february 1902.

It concerns The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct published on 16 january 1902.

The Cause and Conduct of the War

The Times (13 february 1902)


Sir, — I had hoped to escape from futile polemics with Mrs. Melladew, but as no answer might leave an impression that I had indeed been convicted of error, I must deal shortly with the two points.

Mrs. Melladew has evidently read up a portion and not all of the case. I cannot, however, blame her for being misled, as the matter is complex and there is a conflict of evidence. In such cases, since I hold a brief for no one, I have made it a rule to form and express my own conclusions.

The first point is whether President Kruger at the time of the Bloemfontein Conference asked for international or for South African arbitration. Mrs. Melladew is convinced that he was contented with the latter. Anyone who has closely observed the shifty nature of Transvaal diplomacy, "always wriggling to prevent a clear and precise derision," as De Villiers remarked, will not share the confidence of the lady.

"With regard to arbitration," Sir Alfred Milner observed in his account of the negotiations, "the President once proposed that some question, or a number of questions, should be submitted to the President of the Swiss Republic. The British Government refused that on the general principle, from which I am sure they will not depart, that they will not have any foreign Government, or any foreign interference at all, between them and the South African Republic."

Finding that we were inflexible upon this point President Kruger appeared to give way. At the last sitting of all (Monday, June 5), Mr. Kruger put in his final memorandum, which contained a paragraph referring to his "request for arbitration by other than foreign Powers." This phrase was the first intimation that Sir Alfred Milner had had throughout the Conference that President Kruger had modified his previous requests for arbitration by a foreign Power.

This phrase has thrown dust in the eyes of those who have not been very intent upon following the sequence of events. Had they ended there one might believe, with Mrs. Melladew, that the President had at the last moment, when his words could have no practical significance in the Conference, changed his view upon arbitration. This was no doubt the effect which he meant to produce. But to check its sincerity we have to take the proposals of Mr. Reitz for arbitration upon the London Convention. These are dated June 9 - a few days after the President had appeared to abandon the idea of foreign arbitration. They had undoubtedly emanated from the President ; everything did ; and yet they suggested that there should be a representative of either side, and one foreigner with a casting vote. Thus within four days it was evident that President Kruger had by no means abandoned the idea of external arbitration.

On the second point I must also uphold my own conclusion, though my point may have been a little obscure. I did not mean that there had been no negotiations at all between the date of the sending the proposal for a Joint Commission and September 2 - on the contrary, I give some account of them on page 50 - but that they were elusive and evasive, justifying the idea that they were designed to gain time. If, instead of "no reply" I had written "no definite reply" my text would certainly have been clearer.

Our funds are sufficient now to carry out all one plans - although, of course, the more we have the larger will be the scale upon which we can do it. We will print not less than 20,000 each of the German and French editions. The former will be published by Herr Bloch, Potsdammer Strasse, Berlin ; the latter by Galignani, Rue de Rivoli, Paris.

Yours faithfully,

Athanaeum Club, Feb. 10.

See also